mine wrote:I agree that there isn't anything wrong with writing (or creative process in general) being easy. But in this case the specific easy approach seems to have been picked out of convenience and rationalized into having some superior artistic value by default. It was merely a convenient choice and I believe that the jury is still very much out as to weather it worked or not.
I don't think much would have to be sacrificed for a more coherent narrative around at least one theme or character as was the case with the original show and FWWM. It's just that tweaking even part of the elements so to get the narrative at a level close to the previous incarnations of Twin Peaks would require putting in an effort that the creators couldn't have been bothered with. Lynch himself doesn't exactly deny that. Every time he's asked about explanations he all but confirms they aren't there as far as he is concerned. I don't think this is an issue per se but it really isn't the best approach to an 18 hour season based on a well established narrative/universe.
I think the highly compressed nature of the filming schedule, shooting and editing the equivalent of nine feature films in the time it usually takes to do one, is something we need to keep sight of here. It may be that the limitations and accidents of this schedule placed great pressure on the written material, or it may be that the written material was in any case more of a very flexible and rough guideline that could be freely adapted to circumstances. We don't know much about so many factors involved in what must have been at times a very hectic production process, beyond what Sutherland has revealed about there being very little cut. Is your complaint, then, not so much that the 'easy way' has been taken, but rather that long-term planning might have been thrown out the window on lots of occasions in favour of lots of short to mid-term plans? You seem to be echoing a number of people who have voiced concern over a lack of 'connective tissue', as if the season lacks something like a spine that can articulate all the smaller pieces into one organically connected mass that moves more or less in symphony.
I agree with the view that there are many vignettes in this season, but not that it lacks a thoroughgoing sense of narrative. However, as I see it, many of the connections to this backbone (Dale Cooper's epic -- and tragic -- 'Odyssey' as others have aptly described it) are implicit, operating often on a subliminal or barely conscious associations. A case in point: the 'side stories' of Jacoby, Nadine and Big Ed can be viewed both as self-contained mini-arcs with no connection to Cooper's voyage home, and
can also be seen as dealing with deeply sympathetic or resonant themes to what is happening for Cooper. Even miniscule fragments like Hailey Gates' "one-one-nine!" woman or the frantic mother and her puking daughter in the traffic jam outside the RR bring to bear an acute situational urgency to what is going on in the main trunk of the story. Long, wide, lingering shots of slow activity like painting shovels and sweeping floors have a similar, but opposite effect: for me they beg us to dwell on those resting places or plateaus of tension in the overall
dramatic envelope. And sometimes these Lynchian conventions are used in surprising ways, as when in pt. 15 some very wide shots of Gersten and Stephen in the woods creates a very stifling, heady and restive atmosphere that feeds as much into the highly dramatic conclusion (Cooper electrocuting himself) as does Ruby crawling across the roadhouse floor or Chantal petulantly munching away while pointing out the planet Mars to Hutch. True, I will not claim that each part has a certain theme (in the manner of a Sesame Street episode -- brought to you by the letters a,b, and the number 2) and the story proceeds only in this blocky, brick-by-brick nature; dramatic tension and release also works through contrast and counterpoint, after all, and parts which were each saturated through with their own tonality would not work except as mood pieces. But I am claiming that there is an overall structure to the beast, which articulates its many limbs and allows it to rise up and walk.
My argument here is that the tendons and muscles of this beast are not so much written, as you yourself observe, but are produced by the direction (and the editing! we must not
forget the editing!). The connective tissue is something that wouldn't easily show up in a script, I'm claiming. It's something that can be felt, however. While this might seem to some who are eager to accuse the team of copping-out on the narrative front, the onus or burden of discovering the connective tissue has been placed on the equipment of the viewers, on their sensitivity to the variety of ways that different scenes and mini-narratives can chime or 'rhyme' with what is going on in the main trunk, accentuating it or in some cases throwing different lights on it. Now, to me, this way of working is in fact deeply continuous with Twin Peaks S1 and S2, which I finished rewatching in full just days ago. In fact the theme-of-the-week feeling, which I dismissed as too simplistic here, is probably more true in the case of the old seasons: when certain events happen to one set of characters it generally happens to another character group in a slightly different way, on a per-episode basis, particularly in the more Lynchian episodes. There, the thematic threads that run through entire episodes were often much more overt. Lynch has become subtler, perhaps, or has adapted his way of working from the episodic soap format of S1 and S2 to the more cinematic ambitions of S3. It's often said that what has to be spelled out on TV can be told in the curl of a lip or blink of an eye in film -- I think this difference also amounts to there being a greater interpretive onus placed on a cinema audience. Does this mean that film-makers are inherently lazy when compared with the writers and directors of TV shows? I would say no; they still have to do the hefty and substantial work of capturing on film those telling gestures of lips or eyes.
I suppose I'm not saying much -- just that the 'low bar' view when it comes to narrative connections may be looking in the wrong place for them. As comprehensive as an overarching narrative might be in tying things together for an audience, assigning each tributary its place and value within the whole, I think that it will always still depend in the last instance on the effort of the viewer to meet it halfway. In this respect, Lynchian work has always been far more demanding. It's not that we have to put meat on the bones of a disconnected skeleton -- this beast is meaty enough -- but that we are purposefully being challenged to feel our way around with little to go on other than how we feel and what 'rings true' for us: as in life, there's no assembly manual. Not because Lynch couldn't write one even if he wanted -- I don't believe that, and I'm pretty sure he has his own pet theories about what goes where and why (and very precise ones I bet). But because he, like some others artists of his generation and spiritual proclivity, doesn't buy the 'intentional fallacy' that just one person (or even one production team) has a special, privileged key that will unlock all the mysteries of an artwork.
I just wanted to say that I agree with nearly every word of this wonderful post, Novalis. And, unfortunately, disagree with almost everything that Mine has written.
I don't believe this was a lazy way of writing or an easy thing to write, unless Lynch once again got supremely lucky. There's so much connective tissue throughout; 5 viewings in and there isn't anything that doesn't seem connected in some way, while also being wide open to interpretation, and miraculously open to read from many different characters' perspectives, psychologically mapped onto the screen. As you said, the tissue is more implicit than anything, but it's all there, functioning like beautiful internal rhymes as the narrative spills outwards, off the frame (rather than forwards, like every other TV show ever made), giving the illusion that these people exist beyond what we're seeing onscreen.
Somewhat unrelatedly, I just want to state something that I feel is very obvious, but which no one has specifically mentioned, regarding Mr. C. So many people are disappointed and claim that Mr. C was aimless, that we never knew what he wanted so he failed as a villain, etc. But, clearly Mr. C's journey is primarily existential. That still might not sit right with some people who would have liked for him to do more than look for coordinates, to have a twistier plotline, to have greater bearing on the actual plot of The Return, to be more deeply developed, etc. But those coordinates he's looking for matter most for the irony that they lead him directly to his doom. I don't believe this is at all a flaw, and I believe it was one of the primary intentions of the depiction of his character.
Similarly, regarding the complaints about Diane being there to prop up the men around her, I also disagree. Then again, I also don't see the gender problem at all in The Return. First, we must figure out the proper angle to view the work, through whose eyes and which themes to process it. In the case of Diane, a woman who may actually only be a thoughtform and whose existence has always been a mystery, Lynch/Frost find a way to keep her that way. Did we ever see the real Diane? If this is Cooper's story, and one with a slippery reality at that, then it makes perfect sense that, in the end, she is there to serve his character. That said, I find her character insanely complex. And on a realistic note, of course it makes more sense for Cooper to make the final journey with Diane, who had been Cooper's confidant for years, rather than Audrey or Annie, both of whom he knew for just a matter of weeks.
To answer the question of this thread, I do believe that The Return is work to be reckoned with, and which will grow in stature over time. It makes everything else look small and formulaic. I don't know where it sits in Lynch's filmography, but it's certainly as great a work of art as I've ever seen on television. It's deeply personal, political, powerful, and profound. An audio-visual marvel, a truly ambitious work of art unlike anything else that works on the level of dream (collective dreams and projections), subjective subconscious journey (psychologically mapped onto the action), reality (a reflection of the real world and the rhythms of real life) and meta-reality (actual reality of The Return's making/existence) all at once. And the finale makes the thing. I can't believe people say that it ruins or sidesteps or makes inconsequential everything that has been building. It does the opposite, linking up the major themes of identity, trauma, time, aging, returning and reviving. Cooper's Richard makes me view every Cooper character differently via rewatch, demonstrates that Mr. C and Dougie were indeed on display as aspects of Cooper's identity throughout, and solidifies one reading of The Return as a trip through Cooper's subconscious. That truly makes this his odyssey, after all.